California politicians faced off over President Donald Trump’s travel order Monday, as the state Senate passed a resolution denouncing it as “discriminatory overreach” and the state Republican Party chairman said they were engaging in “hypocritical political posturing.”
State Senate leader Kevin de León announced a resolution condemning the order that stopped travel from a handful of Muslim-majority countries and urging the federal Department of Homeland Security to provide detainees access to lawyers. The Senate voted 26-11 to approve it following weekend-long demonstrations against the ban at U.S. airports.
“The executive order combines inhumanity with incompetence,” de León said. “It doesn’t keep us safe. It exacerbates America’s anti-Muslim reputation and gives terrorist organizations another recruiting tool.”
Democrats described the order, signed Friday, as unconstitutional. Several pointed out that the order, dubbed “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States,” mentions Sept. 11, but selectively bans travel from seven countries whose residents were not involved in the terrorist attacks that toppled the World Trade Center in New York.
Many Republicans spoke in support of the president and described the order as a boon to national security.
Trump pressed the pause button on immigration in order to establish a more strict vetting process for refugees, said Sen. Jeff Stone, R-Temecula.
“How about we start figuring out how we work with this president instead of condemning him at every turn?” Stone said.
Democrats pushed back against the suggestion that refugees are not properly vetted before they enter the country.
“I ask us to tap into our humanity,” said Sen. Toni Atkins, D-San Diego. “We are not suggesting that we lax our national security. In fact, it’s stronger than it’s ever been.”
Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, D-Paramount, criticized colleagues who have brushed off Trump’s campaign promises as mere rhetoric. Warning that what has happened in other countries could happen here, he has said he believes the president could cancel the midterm elections in 2018.
The travel ban, he said, demonstrated that Democrats should take Trump seriously.
“It was a realization of a lot of fears that we had,” Rendon said. “These are interesting moral tests for a lot of Republicans, a lot of Americans, a lot of Californians to see if folks are willing to speak up.”
California Republican Party Chairman Jim Brulte, however, noted Democratic lawmakers weren’t so vocal when Barack Obama’s administration deported more than 2.5 million immigrants and, in response to a threat in 2011, instituted a six-month slowdown on visas for Iraqi refugees.
“These Democrats in the Legislature who are crying crocodile tears over this were deafeningly silent when Barack Obama did a temporary ban for people coming from Iraq because he was concerned about the vetting process,” Brulte, a longtime former GOP legislative leader said in an interview with The Sacramento Bee. “This is politics, and this is what makes voters apathetic.”
“Rather than focusing on needless resolutions, the Democrats might want to fix the California budget deficit that they themselves created,” Brulte added in the interview, accusing the party’s leaders of misplaced priorities.
“They might want to start working on the income inequality in California. They might want to focus on California’s poverty rate, which is the highest rate of any poverty rate in the country. And they might want to start taking a little bit of time taking a look at the public employee pension system, which is underfunded. That would be a better use of their time today.”
While Brulte’s remarks were in line with several congressional and legislative Republicans, Assembly Republican Leader Chad Mayes of Yucca Valley settled on a different approach in an earlier statement Monday.
“Religious liberty is a core value of our nation,” Mayes said. “My ancestors immigrated to America to flee religious persecution. While bolstering our national security is important, when forced to decide between security and liberty, I will always side with liberty.”
Sen. Janet Nguyen, R-Garden Grove, said she understood the plight of refugees. Her family immigrated to the United States from Vietnam when she was 5 years old.
“As a refugee, this order is a difficult one for me,” Nguyen said. “In the end, the debate is about national security.”
Nguyen did not vote on the resolution.
Christopher Cadelago and Alexei Koseff of The Bee Capitol Bureau contributed to this report.